LifeHealthPro Senior Editor Warren S. Hersch recently interviewed Jason Konopik, chief financial officer of AMZ Financial Insurance Services, a national wholesaler of indexed universal life (IUL) products. The interview explored the product development and other services AMZ Financial offers life insurers and producers. And it examined how IUL solutions are evolving to better meet clients’ retirement income needs. The following are excerpts.
Hersch: Tell me about your professional background and how you ended up at AMZ Financial? What expertise do you bring to the company?
Konopik: I’m a product actuary by training. I previously headed up product development at Amerus Group, which specialized in indexed products, including indexed universal life insurance and fixed indexed annuities. Ten years ago, I left Amerus Group to become a partner at AMZ Financial, then a national wholesaler of life insurance products.
When I joined AMZ, the company pivoted from a narrow focus on product wholesaling, training and support for producers to helping carriers with their product development, primarily in respect to indexed universal life — a product that few carriers then offered. Over last 10 years, we’ve worked with about a dozen insurers on their IUL development initiatives.
Hersch: What specific expertise do you offer carriers?
Konopik: On the low end, we provide what we call reactive services: market intelligence and feedback on IUL product development efforts already underway.
For example, the 10- or 20-year cash surrender value for a prototype product may look good from a carrier’s perspective. But this surrender value may not be enough to boost interest among agents and brokers who are more interested in long-term cash accumulation needed to fund a retirement income plan. So we might suggest changes to the product to support this goal.
Alternatively, a carrier might tap us to assist in product development from the start of the process. We developed a patent-pending feature about 5 years ago and then approached insurers about adding the feature to their product portfolio. One carrier, Minnesota Life, agreed to do so and signed a patent-usage agreement. We were then deeply involved in building the product to support the new feature.
Hersch: Who on AMZ’s staff offers this product development expertise?
Konopik: I provide the actuarial component. Other AMZ staffers carry out additional support functions for producers and carriers: market intelligence, sales, product distribution, training and education. We have 29 employees on staff, including employees with expertise in wholesaling, competitive intelligence and producer support.
On the wholesaling side of the house, we’re on target to do $40 million in life insurance sales this year, most of the revenue generated by indexed UL products. We also support all traditional UL and variable life products, as well as annuities, including SPIAs, DIAs and fixed indexed products.
Hersch: Why the strong emphasis at AMZ on indexed UL solutions?
Konopik: Indexed UL has been one of the industry’s fastest-growing products since I’ve been in the business. The product holds much potential for further innovations — changes that will better meet the needs of clients and boost sales for producers.